Archive for October, 2009

“On a Sunday evening in early February, Daily Tar Heel staffers at the University of North Carolina were dealing with the usual stresses of a looming print deadline. And then the bomb dropped. Or at least the threat of one, which forced the evacuation of a few campus buildings, including the student union that houses the paper’s newsroom…”

So begins my look back at the year that was in collegemediatopia. The latest issue of College Media Review features my retrospective on all-things influential, controversial, innovative, and just-plain wacky in the world of college media in 2008-2009.

College Media Review

Among the publications and people specifically mentionedThe Amherst WireThe Collegian (Hillsdale College), The Collegiate Times (Virginia Tech), The Daily BruinThe Daily Utah ChronicleThe Daily EmeraldThe Daily Nexus (UC Santa Barbara), The Daily Tar HeelThe HoyaThe Minnesota DailyNYU Local, Quad NewsThe Quinnipiac ChronicleThe Signpost (Weber State), The Tech (MIT), Briana Bierschbach, Jackie Hai, and Allison Nichols.

Be sure to check out the piece (pages 9-11) and the rest of the issue!

College Media Review2

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At James Madison University, it started with a peeping tom– an alleged creep watching girls in dorm showers. It’s now ending with administrative idiocy. A student reporter with The Breeze, JMU’s campus newspaper, went to a JMU dorm recently to speak with students about a reported shower stalker. An RA became nervous and asked the reporter to leave. The Breeze EIC came by as back-up. So did the hall director. Now, as the paper and the Student Press Law Center report, the EIC and reporter are being charged with “trespassing, disorderly conduct and non-compliance with an official request.”

Shower Head Water Drops EXPLORE 7-26-09 4 by stevendepolo.

My take: Slap the shower stalker with those charges, not dedicated student journos just doing their job! It’s a dorm, not a sanctuary. And these are not scary outsiders invading students’ private space. Dear lord, they are journalist peers. This is power abuse, against the spirit (and most likely also the letter) of the law. It’s also incredibly bad PR. How can someone at JMU not realize that? SPLC attorney advocate: “It’s an action so contradictory to the ordinary meaning of the First Amendment that it’s astonishing they haven’t backed down from it yet. A mistake this obvious shouldn’t take this long to get corrected.” JMU professor: “It’s very ironic we have this situation at an institution named after James Madison, who has been labeled the father of the Constitution.”

The Butler case is more complicated, and frankly I do not know where I stand here. The *very* barebones basics, as reported with much more meaty goodness by Inside Higher Ed: Butler University is suing one of its own students for an anonymous blog he kept starting last fall that bad-mouthed various administrators to the point of what the school is calling defamation and libel. This one is tricky, however, because the student is a son/stepson of two Butler faculty members and originally started the blog (under the creative moniker “Soodo Nym”) when he became upset about some insider shenanigans allegedly affecting his stepmother’s position as chair of Butler’s School of Music.

From the snippets provided by Inside Higher Ed, no statements appear to come close to being libelous or defamatory  (although there were some random e-mails the student sent to admins. that seem a bit more troublesome). And I do think the school is overreacting and bringing unnecessary levels of attention to what is obviously a huge amount of inner turmoil on campus.  But my Balloon-Boy-cynicism starts kicking in when I read that the student’s parents claim they had no clue their son was writing a regular attack-blog against people who apparently are the parents’ sworn school enemies (or at least with whom they had a falling out).  This mess has TV-movie-of-the-week written all over it. (To the wonderfultastic Renee Petrina at Bowling Green: Send the best related editorial your students create and I’ll check it out and maybe post it!)

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The Student Life at Washington University in St. Louis is using its student connections and new media savviness to cover the Chicago bar racism incident in-depth and from numerous angles. They have posted the insta-famous Rejected, Admitted photos and had their opening story on the alleged blow to Civil Rights picked up by HuffPo and a host of other national outlets.

Seniors Regis Murayi (left) and Jordan Roberts (right)wear the same pair of jeans. Murayi was told he could not enter a Chicago bar because he violated its ban on baggy jeans. He then switched jeans with Roberts, and Roberts was admitted into the bar. Murayi says the bar discriminated against him because he is black. (Courtesy of Fernando Cutz)

The newspaper has run a number of stories documenting the reactions of students and the school chancellor, along with covering a campus “town hall-style forum” addressing the incident’s implications.  I am especially impressed by the paper’s town hall live blog.  Most live blogs are utter crapola, attempting to capture too little, too soon (an Entertainment Weekly Oscar ceremony live blog earlier this year literally featured items such as “Tom Cruise walks to podium.”) The StudLife LB, by comparison, is perfectly spaced out.  It offered updates about every five minutes- enabling fully-formed sentences, context (even mini-headers), and some actual insight! Bravo.

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It is Student Life day here at CMM! I am not talking about undergraduates’ beyond-class campus experiences, but the scrappy student newspaper at Washington University in St. Louis.  The pub is currently soaking in the national spotlight for its fantastic coverage of a major event (more on that in a moment).

But on a recent visit to its Web site, I came across a separate innovative new media content scheme definitely worth sharing: a staff editorial breaking down the major moments of the school year so far in the form of Facebook’s beloved News Feed.  Obviously it is campus-specific, so I have no clue what most status updates are about (anyone with the scoop on the Eleven Magazine update, I’m curious!), but the medium is the message here as a story/presentation idea for other SMOs (student media outlets) worldwide.

Scott Bressler is Cooler Than You :)

(Thanks to fantastic StudLife online editor Scott Bressler for passing along a more Web-friendly image.)

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University of Montana football coach Bobby Hauck is throwing a prolonged temper tantrum worthy of Will.i.am aimed directly at the student press. He is refusing to speak to The Montana Kaimin, the school’s student newspaper, and has instructed his team and staff to boycott the publication as well.  Why? Because, wait for it, the Kaimin had the gall to not only publish an accurate story about two football players’ alleged misdeeds but also then ask Hauck some tame football questions at recent press conferences. Inglourious Basterds they are not. Sounds more like quality journalists to me.

The incident, which I’m labeling the Bobby Ban affair (or maybe the Hauck-sucker Proxy?), has now gone viral. National news outlets are weighing in, all in the Kaimin‘s favor. In a ridonkulously funny, eye-opening column, Jeff Pearlman at Sports Illustrated provides a nice recap of the ban’s origins: “The whole ordeal dates back a month ago, when the Kaimin published a piece about an alleged assault on a student by two Montana football players.  The content of the article hasn’t been questioned, and the reporter made certain to contact Hauck and the players before publication.  When the reporter asked the coach about the incident, Hauck cursed him out, then tried to cover up his tape recorder. . . . At a recent weekly news conference, a Kaimin reporter asked Hauck a simple question about his quarterbacks. ‘You want something from me now?’ the coach replied. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.'”

Football

Great move, coach. Alienate the most prominent voice of your fan base. Next up: Start insulting star recruits’ mothers. With the national press now taking aim at his egomania, I imagine the phrase “Bobby’s career on the sidelines” will take on a whole new meaning once the season is complete. And the best part, the Kaimin will get to cover it. :-)

On a side-note, a quote from Editor & Publisher, circa 1949: A student newspaper “can raise more hell on a college campus than spiked punch at the dean’s reception for freshmen women.” In respect to this positive ability to impact its coverage area, the Kaimin officially wins the first CMM “Spiked Punch” award. The paper’s pissing off of the football coach comes only months after it similarly riled up a wacko faculty member at the school for publishing its first sex column in its roughly 110-year history. Quality journalism, oh the agony!  To the paper’s editor, Allison Maier, keep up the fight! You’re national now. :-)

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I am writing briefly basically to say hello, again. As my dozens of (family members) loyal readers might recall, I stopped updating this blog in mid-September, segueing to UWIRE’s “College Media Beat.” Earlier this month, without warning, UWIRE basically stopped functioning online.

As Seattle University’s Spectator blog reports, “The service’s Web site, uwire.com, stopped updating its headlines and sending out its daily news digest e-mails [as of early-to-mid October] and now a visit to the site returns an error.” A statement from UWIRE’s general manager: “UWIRE has temporarily suspended its print wire operations. The company is in the process of trying to get the wire relaunched as quickly as possible and when more information is available it will be made public.”

The Spectator piece cites my previous interview with Joe Weasel, the CEO of Palestra.net, the company that purchased UWIRE back in March. Weasel told me at the time: “[W]e’re trying to find an outlet and find the mechanism whereby students can get even more engaged in not only print and text but digital journalism. We’re trying to get students as much exposure as possible…”

Many people have asked me for inside information on what is going down.  My answer: I have absolutely no idea. I’ve received only barebones info. What does this mean for College Media Beat? I also honestly have no clue. I’ve basically been told to hold off blogging for awhile and wait for final word on its status.  I am but a lowly blogger half a world away, so I do not know what is actually transpiring. My hope is something incredibly fantastic. What I can confirm: The staff with whom I have had the pleasure to interact are wonderful, hardworking, idealistic, and *truly* want what is best for student journalists and the faculty and advisers who love them.

My bottom line: I miss blogging about collegemediatopia, and lots has gone down in the last few weeks (thefts and censorship and even a high-profile football fight!). So I’m back here with CMM. Stay tuned.

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In a reflective new post on her personal blogWhit editor in chief Emily Kostic at Rowan University outlines her seesaw mentality toward the paper’s recent gung-ho coverage and editorializing about the school’s student government.

In her words:

Over the past month, The Whit . . . has published several controversial stories about our Student Government Association. It got heated. The Montclarion (the college newspaper at Montclair State University who has been in legal battles with their SGA over similar issues as ours) published an editorialsupporting us. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Student Press Law Center were unofficially advising us. It was bad and well…is still unresolved.

The controversy reached fever pitch when we published this editorial— a slamming review of Rowan’s SGA and their practices. It was, to use their word, “harsh.”

I agreed with the publishing of the associated article and editorial the entire week up to its publishing and as soon as the paper the news stand and we hit publish for it to go online, I was immediately hit with regret.

She later wrote it was a campus visit by the fearless authors of The Soprano State, a book exposing corruption at the highest levels in New Jersey, that ultimately swayed her to accept the Whit‘s tough love as a journalistic necessity and to embrace the mantra heading her post: “Don’t Be Scared- Question Authority!”

One of the toughest issues student press outlets face is going after its own. A student newspaper is held up as an outlet for students, by students, making tough love or an outright attack on one of its brothers or sisters in arms something akin to a mother lamb feeding her young to the wolves. (After all, according to stereotype, student media should only be going after school administrators!)

The other tough spot for student journos: You often have to look the object of your disaffections in the eye immediately and repeatedly after publication. Kostic mentions that she personally likes several members of Rowan’s student government. For student journalists, especially on small campuses, the reality is that those you wish to feature will often be friends, acquaintances or at least connected to you probably through less than three degrees of separation. As long as the extensive, in-your-face coverage has been accurate and not reached the point of simply being piled on, the Whit should be proud of its efforts.

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